Just dropping in quickly to let you know I’m still on the planet. I have moved, but my ISP/ telephone service will not be online for at least another week (due to a screw-up on their part), so I’m grabbing my internet time while I can. In the meantime, I’m living on a building site, next to another building site, surrounded by boxes, and I have yet to locate my printer…
But this enforced break from social interaction, which has yet to turn me into Howard Hughes (give it time… That’s why we’re getting a dog 😉 ) has meant that I’ve been able to crack on and finish another chapter of Spark and Carousel. Someone has messed up my plan by dying sooner than I intended them to, but I think I can live with that. I can always revive them – privilege of being Ruler of the Universe and all that.
Anyway, it’s going ok, so here’s an extract to keep you entertained while I wait to be reconnected. As always, this packet of dry-roasted spoilers may contain spoilers…
Extract from Chapter 18 (Chapter 18 is all sex and violence, lots of fun to write! Apologies for any first-drafty nonsense that might creep in.)
Bastian went down like a sack of oats, his howl of pain echoing around the narrow corridor. If Allorise hadn’t known he was there before, she certainly did now.
Caro gave him no chance to regain his feet. She leapt up and raced away down the corridor in the darkness, back the way they had come, loose corset stays slapping at her legs, lungs tight under compressed ribs. She stumbled over hidden steps and stubbed her toes, but she couldn’t slow, knowing Bastian would be after her as soon as she’d recovered, and then she’d find out how earnest his threat to slit her throat was.
She couldn’t find the back of the wardrobe. The corridor seemed to go on and on, and she wondered, with a moment of horror, whether it led in a circle, and she would suddenly find herself back outside Allorise’s bedroom. Then all Bastian had to do was stand and wait. She groped for her knife, fingers brushing bare skin, and remembered too late that it lay in Allo’s dressing chamber along with the rest of her clothes. She panted curses as she ran. Spark had warned her to stay out of the Carey mansion, but she had known better, and now she was running for her life in Allo’s sweaty corset, and she was lost.
She found herself at the bottom of a sheer flight of stairs, and now she could hear footfalls in the corridors behind her. With the echoes, it was hard to tell how far away Bastian was, but she had no chance to turn back and try a different route. She took the stairs two at a time, stumbling out on to a short landing that led to a dead end. Two spy holes, on either side of the passage, cast narrow searchlights across her body, but they didn’t reveal any way out.
She beat against the walls, kicked at them, scratched the stone with broken fingernails, hearing the first heavy tread on the stair below. As she backed against the dead end wall, fists raised, ready to fight, something scraped beneath her elbow, and she felt the wall behind her move. Just a fraction, but enough to spill a long thread of light into the corridor.
She turned and pushed, frantic now, and all at once the wall before her slid aside, and her weight carried her forward into the room, grabbing at the furniture to stop herself from falling. She gasped, and the stink of corpses filled her nose and lungs, making her eyes water. She blinked furiously, looking for a way out, but the sight of the old man in the bed froze her to the spot.
At first she thought he was dead. He looked dead, decayed, empty yellowed flesh hanging off his bones. His chest sagged down between his ribs, not rising or falling, and his withered hands clutched the bedfurs like a hawk’s talons gripping his prey. She retreated, banging her elbow on the dresser, and broke the silence of the tomb with a curse.
One eye, huge in the sunken face, flickered open and swiveled in her direction, the white threaded with sickly yellow, the pupil dilated so wide the old man’s iris had vanished. His clawed hands twitched, and his mouth drooped open, a black, toothless cavern. He gurgled, from somewhere deep in his chest, and blinked.
Sickened, Carousel pressed her hand to her mouth and stepped back, too scared to turn her back on the figure in the bed that should not, could not, be moving. It had taken only a moment; Bastian’s feet were still hard on the stairs behind her, and she heard the whisper of his blade, but she couldn’t tear her eyes from the old man, even when she felt the cold bite of steel against her throat.
“Tell me,” Bastian hissed in her ear, his voice high and strained, “why I shouldn’t slit you open right now, you little bitch?”
She managed to raise a trembling hand to point. “Who is he?”
The knife clattered to the floor at her feet. If she’d been able to think straight, she would have pounced on it, but she could hardly move through terror. She could feel Bastian shaking. “Bastian?”
“He’s my father. No!” as she overcame her revulsion and took a step forward. “Don’t go near him! He’s got some kind of plague.”
“Is that what’s wrong with his mouth? Poor old man…” Lord Carey blinked, and Carousel’s eyes watered in sympathy as she stroked the limp hair back from his forehead.
“Carousel, be careful…”
She threw Bastian a withering glance. “It doesn’t look like any plague I’ve ever seen.”
“You’re a whore, Caro, not a healer. You’d be smart to remember that.”
“I’m a street rat. I’ve seen every kind of pox.” She bent over the old man, holding her breath against the smell, trying to work out what was so unnerving, so familiar, about his decayed mouth.
Bastian scoffed. “A few cases of scrad and an unwanted pregnancy are hardly –”
“Shut up.” She took hold of Bastian’s father’s jaw, gently, fearing the bones would crumble under the pressure, and eased his mouth open. The severed root of his tongue twitched, like the stumpy tail of a fighting dog. “I don’t know any plague that cuts a man’s tongue out so neatly, do you?”
“What are you talking about?” He shouldered her roughly aside to get a better look at his father’s gaping mouth, his impotently twitching tongue. “Dada? What happened?”
Lord Carey thrashed his head back and forth. Little bubbles of spit gathered at the corners of his mouth as he garbled some incomprehensible sounds.
Carousel snorted. “Like he’s going to answer you. Someone doesn’t want him talking, that’s pretty clear.”
“Maybe the plague got into his tongue, and Shadow had to cut it out?” All at once Bastian sounded less certain.
“How convenient,” Carousel said. She leaned over the old man once more. She was getting used to the stink now. “Can you understand me, sir? Blink twice if you can.”
Lord Carey’s slow-moving eyelids closed, and opened, then closed once more. Carousel bit her lip. However decayed and ruined his body might be, his mind still functioned. She couldn’t imagine a darker hell than the one that embraced Bastian’s father.
“Blink once for yes, twice for no. Are you in pain?”
Two slow blinks.
“Do you have the plague?”
No. Clicks and gurgles. Carousel thought they sounded indignant. A horrible suspicion had lodged at the pit of her stomach, and she had to force the next question from her dry throat.
“Did someone do this to you? On purpose?”
A single blink. Lord Carey held his eyes wide and staring, until they watered. There could be no mistake. Someone had made him this way, dead yet still alive, and they had done it deliberately.
I hope you enjoyed that little slice of creepiness. Hopefully regular blogging will be resumed soon!